I’m still waiting to finish my phone interview with Jason Castriota. We got 30 minutes into things when a medical emergency with his family took him away and it’s been difficult to get in touch again, but we’ll get it done soon. I’m looking forward to it, too, as we covered a lot, but we had miles to go.
My mates at Auto Motor and Sport caught up with him at the Paris Auto Show and JH has been kind enough to send through a transcript:
“I call them Clark Kent and Superman”
Nisse Svärd sat down together with Saab’s new chief designer Jason Castriota, and discussed the future: Hatchback, concept cars, black interior and model name (current 9-3 will be 900 or 93?). And Jason also revealed what he calls his two bosses …
Why did you take the job at Saab?
Why not? It is a good chance. Saab is an icon in the automotive world and its re-launch offers new opportunities. A perfect environment for a designer when Saab will be reborn and start from scratch and you are also allowed to be responsible and lead the work
Why do you think Saab chose you to manage their heritage?
It was Victor Muller who contacted me. He knows my work at Pininfarina and liked my projects. I have not worked with Spyker, but he appreciated how I managed the design and history of other brands that I worked with. We met at the Geneva Motor Show earlier this year and Victor told me I had to come over. The second press days, I went to the Saab booth where I had a meeting with Jan-Åke and Viktor. It was supposed to last for 15 minutes, but it was a good conversation about Saab’s future design for over an hour and we were very consistent. Then they came over to me at the car show in New York a month later, where I presented the sketches of my proposals. We agreed.
Pushing ahead, that is. Typically Victor, and is it typical for you?
I am a determined designer. Saab must be decisive, especially now. It’s a good synergy between the fiery Victor and restrained Jan-Åke. They are a perfect combination and a dynamic duo. They’re like ying and yang. It is wonderful to work with them. I call them Clark Kent and Superman.
What is it like working at Saab and in your new design?
There is a great passion and enthusiasm within Saab. It’s fun to work here and so easy to be creative. Lovely atmosphere.
When will we see Castriota-design in Saab’s cars for the first time?
The first production car that I was responsible for is coming in 2012.
You consequently mean new 9-3?
Can not promise that it remains the 9-3.
Is it therefore more of a new 900 than a 9-3?
Saab 900 was an icon with a unique silhouette. All the manufacturers want to build premium, sporty and crossover (this refers for instance to the BMW 5 GT). It’s time to go back to a unique Saab which is premium and sporty.
Can the replacement of the 9-3 be called 900 or maybe even 93?
You get a laugh in response. (Jason’s laughter leads to a deliberate silence.)
When will we see the first touch of your Saab design?
There is a concept car next year. It gives a hint of where we are headed. Both the design and technology terms. Exactly when in 2011 is too early to tell. It depends on when the technology that shall be in the car is available.
How do you see Saab’s earlier concept cars? They have received considerable attention, do you build upon them?
No, it will be a new cycle of concept cars. The old ones had elements of Saab DNA, it will of course remain, but with new ideas.
Here at the booth Saab is showing a large text with “The Scandinavian Spirit”. How do you see the term Scandinavian design?
First you observe cultures from the outside, but then you live in it and develop the vision. Today, I live in Trollhättan. Scandinavian design is a rich heritage and not just cars. It is minimalistic and it’s a bit of a contrast to what we see in many booths here today. It is often said that a good car design will be drawn with only three lines. It is not the case with many manufacturers today. Even details are beautiful, but it should be clear lines.
Scandinavian design is often associated – not least among furniture – with light materials and wood. The interior of the Saabs today is almost known as “black”. How do you see it?
Today it is a little too sober inside the Saab cars, and it has been so for a while. I want to give more warmth to the interior and work with natural materials. Saab has lost to competitors regarding the design and colors – it also applies to the outside. I want to make a more humane environment with sustainable materials.